Have you been injured in a car accident? While that phrase may seem like a joke because of television commercials, in all seriousness, the steps you take after being injured in a car accident are incredibly important. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, getting medical care is priority number 1. Usually, people don’t like to see doctors except in cases of severe injury. The rest of the time, people try to “walk it off,” or wait a few days to see if it gets better. But when you’ve been injured in an accident, insurance companies will use any delay or reduction in medical care to argue that you’re not really injured. If you suspect you’ve been injured at all, you must get medical help. That said, people usually don’t know how to navigate the healthcare system after an accident. Here are some tips.
See a medical provider within 72 hours (3 days) of the car accident. Insurance companies use software to value a claim. Their software gives more weight to injuries where the person sees a doctor within 3 days. Of course, every person’s body is different and responds differently to injuries, so this “3-day deadline” is often unfair and not realistic. But that is the formula that insurance companies use.
Does it have to be a primary care physician or ER doctor? No. And in many car accidents, primary care physicians may not be the best provider. Insurance companies rightly classify chiropractors as doctors in their software programs. Chiropractors often have training to treat soft tissue and spinal injuries that primary care physicians do not. Of course, as with any job, there are good and bad chiropractors. Look for a chiropractor who has experience treating car accident injuries. A good chiropractor should be able to tell you about specific injuries you may have suffered. Avoid chiropractors who just tell you that you have “whiplash” or do not explain their treatment.
Getting the care you need may require you to see multiple providers. You may need to get evaluations from a physician, a chiropractor, a concussion specialist, or a physical therapist. Talk to the doctors and medical professionals who you see to explore your options. You want to make sure that you are getting all the treatment that you need. If you miss an injury or don’t get the right treatment for an injury, the insurance company may refuse to pay you even though you were really injured.
What about paying for medical treatment? We hear from clients who were injured in a car accident but did not have the money to seek treatment right away. You may have options. In Colorado, insurance companies are required to offer “medical payment” or “medpay” coverage (see our blog re insurance coverage for more information). Medpay covers payments for medical care regardless of who is at fault in an accident. So if some causes a car accident that injures you, your insurance company will pay for your medical care right away.
If you waived your medpay policy and do not have that coverage, you may still have options. Some providers are willing to treat on a “lien.” That means they do not charge you until you get paid by the insurance company for your injuries. When you do, the provider will get paid out of that recovery. Finally, as a last option, some companies will finance (like a loan) a person’s medical treatment after an accident. This is the worst option because their interest rates are very high. But, again, getting the medical treatment you need is priority #1. If you need to utilize a company to get that treatment, then that is what you must do.
It is important that you get the right medical treatment after a car accident. An experienced car accident attorney can help you navigate the system and explain what your options are. Call a car accident attorney at Cheney Galluzzi & Howard today if you’ve been injured. We are here to help.